I love being alone. I prefer to shop solo, I love losing my identity in a crowd of strangers, and I often hope that no one I know will spot me on the bus, or at the grocery store. I quite enjoy being nameless and unrecognized.
Or, at least I thought I loved it. But sitting here in a quiet apartment without my husband seems strange rather than refreshing.
My husband can tell you the moment he really fell for me – the day I was distraught and had a temper tantrum instead of being a composed, witty woman. Up until that point, I’d been deflecting him with all of my standard social defences – tour guide, confidante, intellectual, comedienne, critic, interviewer.
Let me explain. In moments of emotional tumult, past loves and losses, embarrassing and awkward social settings, I push the eject button. I spent many years with journal in hand to shield me from talking with anyone – I hid behind it at youth group, church, and school. I was that girl – the strange one sitting in the corner, brooding and writing instead of speaking.
I still love wandering through thrift shops, sitting quietly on the skytrain, and I secretly enjoy letting my answering machine do all the talking.
When I worked at a community ranch where we shared bathrooms, a kitchen and all of our working and playing hours, I kept my room as an inner sanctum. Yes, often there would be friends piled on the couch, and deep/hilarious conversation – but there were many times when I didn’t answer the knocking at the door. When I came home from a weekend in the city, I’d sneak back into my room and hope no one had seen me yet – I felt raw and unready to meet the community part of myself again.
And in the first few months of my newly-minted marriage (going on 10 months, now…), I would hide in the bathroom, or wish that I wasn’t seen at all, particularly when I wasn’t at my best. Before I met my husband, any fellow who held my affection was a specific, carefully managed part of my life. I could always say goodbye, retire to comfort of my own room, get away from scrutiny. Once, right before we were married, I actually took off on Jonathan, caught a bus and dissapeared, trying to escape myself.
I still avoid social situations often enough to worry about it – an old conversation monster grips me, and I worry about what to say next, and the consequences of not having anything to say – it’s excruciating for me when I am with a friend I know well, and I am at a loss for words, after having rivers of deep conversation. At those times, I tend to run ragged – look for the loving exit and then agonize later over the lack of words.
So you would think that having my husband away for the weekend would be long-lost balm to my solo-loving soul. When I got home, I didn’t take off my shoes, or say hello to anyone except the cat. I sat down at my computer, ate a whole chocolate bar, left my dishes all over the counter, played my country music loud, and tried to revel in the moment.
But once you’ve let yourself be seen by someone you love, it’s not easy to go back. The process can be painful – there are many, many times when I have felt embarrassed and utterly naked – wishing that nobody saw what a jerk/wreck/drama queen/goof I can be, especially the guy who I am totally in love with, and secretly still trying to impress (when I fall back into insecurity). The pain of being seen, truly and honestly seen is eclipsed by the grace and acceptance that comes in its wake.
Loving and being loved is a risk – chances are, one of us will pass away before the other, and we’ll have to deal with that loneliness. And loving and being loved involves vulnerability and being seen, which can be the most painful thing in the world.
I miss him – and this is a joyful surprise, that I will not always be the girl in the corner, writing cynically about the world and escaping when things get too personal.
Instead, I am sitting here, writing mushily about the man I love – waiting with a happy ache for him to come home.